Why Animal Shelters Have More Cats Than Dogs

Most animal shelters may have four or five times as many cats than dogs. Why do animal shelters have so many more cats than dogs?

In most animal shelters that house both cats and dogs you will find cats out number dogs by as much as 10 to 1. An average shelter will have a ratio of cats to dogs is 4 to 1; meaning that for every one dog a shelter houses, it has 4 cats. Many people wonder why there are so many more cats in animal shelters than dogs.


The biggest reason fewer dogs come into animal shelters is that most live in fenced yards. Cats, on the other hand, often have no boundaries, are rarely contained in a proper outdoor cat enclosure, and so far more of them are picked up as strays and brought to the shelters.


More dogs were collars and identification, as such when a dog is found it often has a way of getting it back to its owner, and as such it may not even enter the shelter.


Both cats and dogs can have 2 litters a year, however more dog owners regulate their dogs breeding abilities than do cat owners. An intact dog is supervised, kept away from other dogs, where as an intact cat might be allowed to roam. Thus a cat is more likely to become pregnant.

Under this we should include the fact that dog owners typically care for their pets in a much stronger sense and more of them have their pets spayed or neutered.  The heat cycle of a cat is different than that of a dog, as such cats tend to multiply faster.

Washington Humane Society by angela n..


Availability of Free Cats

  • This comes into play for many reasons. There are far more “Free to Good Home” kittens available at any time than there are dogs. As such people looking for a pet might just take the free ones rather than adopting one. This leaves the shelter full of cats and kittens.
  • Also since free kittens are so easily available people who have lost their cat might simply go get another free one rather than paying to recover their own cat from the shelter.
  • When cats are free, people are not as committed to them. This relates to the fact that fewer cats receive proper on-going care, such as spaying or neutering, identification, and containment.

Claim Rate due to Investment

Dog owners tend to invest more time and money into selection and care for their pet. Although this overlaps with some of the points mentioned earlier, it is why dog owners often care more about their dog. Selecting a dog is often more thought out than the selection of a cat. Dog owners see the time they spent training the dog as an investment. Dog owners tend to consider their dogs more valuable and as such dogs, when brought into the shelter as strays, tend to be claimed by their owners far more than cats do.

Sanford, Washington Humane Society by angela n..


Surrender Rate do to lack of Investment

Cat owners are more likely to surrender a cat for frivolous reasons such as it was clawing the furniture, or it missed the litter box a few times, rather than work to find a solution to the problem. Because they did not spend as much time looking for their pet, and have not invested as much money and time into the pet, they have a slightly easier time surrendering it to a shelter (or even illegally abandoning it).

Unwanted Litters

More cat owners have problems getting rid of unwanted litters of kittens than dog owners have with getting rid of puppies. As such it is more likely for the shelter to receive a litter of kittens than a litter of pups.


Cats have a slightly longer lifespan than do dogs, and particularly larger breed dogs. As such a dog owner may be in the market for a new dog long before a cat owner starts looking for another cat.

Washington Humane Society by angela n..


Rareness Factor

Certain breeds of dogs are in big demand. Many shelters keep request lists from potential adopters looking for certain kinds of pets, usually certain breeds of dogs, or dogs that are known to be good with children, non-shedding dogs, and so forth. As such when a shelter dog is ready to go up for adoption it might already have 2-3 people willing to take it. Because cats seldom have special features to make it more desirable than another cat, such waiting lists are rare.

Other Points

  • Statistics vary from shelter to shelter, area to area, country to country. Typically dogs have a higher rate of being claimed by their owner, a higher adoption rate, and a lower rate of euthanasia than do cats.  More cats are surrendered, or brought, to shelters than are dogs.
  • Many cats that come in as strays go unclaimed, unadopted, and as such the rate of euthanasia in cats is much higher.
  • According to the American Humane Society 71% of cats brought into shelters were euthanized, and that in 2008 over 3.7 million pets were euthanized. 
  • Shelters have limited space and cannot keep every pet alive, either they have to turn down pets or euthanize some to make room.

What can you Do?

The most important thing a cat owner can do is to spay or neuter their pet.  In fact it should not be allowed outside until it has been fixed.  When letting a cat out (if at all) it should be identified and ideally kept in its owners yard.  As soon as a cat goes missing the shelter should be contacted, and checked. 

When considering your next pet, always look at the shelter first.  As a non-profit organization, it is often cheaper to adopt a pet than to get a free one and have its medical needs checked on your own.

Other Links

Why People Surrender their own Pets to the Shelter

How Shelters Decide which Pets to Euthanize

The 72 Hour Law and Your Pet

Free Kittens or Paid For?

Should I Breed my Cat?

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User Comments
  1. Authoress Terry E. Lyle

    On February 15, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Count me down as a cat lover. Purrrfect.

  2. chellsy

    On February 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    this is very informative

  3. Inna Tysoe

    On February 15, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks for that.


  4. PR Mace

    On February 15, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Thank you for the care you place into each of your articles on animals. Another thought provoking piece. My daughter got her cat from the local shelther and there were many to pick from.

  5. deep blue

    On February 15, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Well written. I suppose cat population goes with female population as dog population goes with male population. Anyways, feline and canine stands side by side with humans.

  6. writergirl77

    On February 15, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    :) Nicely written!!!

  7. Daisy Peasblossom

    On February 15, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    I’m with you on this one. That is why my patio has a screened top as well as sides; and closed doors are used till everyone makes that neutering trip to the vet.

  8. mo hoyal

    On February 15, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    This was very good B.
    Very informative and astounding as to the number of animals that are euthanized, very sad also.
    Where I live, people just let their animals run wild and very few keep them put up in their back yards. The issue with cats here is totally out of control and no one gives a damn!
    Spaying and neutering are also grossly ignored.

  9. Jenilia12

    On February 15, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    good stuff, interesting to read.

  10. qasimdharamsy

    On February 16, 2010 at 8:05 am

    really true…..

  11. Darla Beck

    On February 16, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Very good article!

  12. martie

    On February 16, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I agree with everything you have said. We get stray cats here all the time that people just dump. One thing I will say is that it is far harder to contain a cat to a yard than it is a dog.

  13. sambhafusia

    On February 16, 2010 at 9:50 am

    excellent share…interesting stuff, well written…keep it up..

  14. nobert soloria bermosa

    On February 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    very informative….cats are less expensive to keep as pet…stumbled

  15. Mark Gordon Brown

    On February 16, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    As always your love of animals shows.

  16. Ruby Hawk

    On February 16, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    We have stray cats at our complex from time to time and they are taken to shelters. I think people sometime take some of them in. My granddaughter found a beautiful kitten here a few years ago.In fact she wanted the whole litter but she could only catch one.

  17. Rose

    On February 20, 2010 at 11:25 am

    I am a cat owner and I know its harder to contain them. I lost 1 of my cats recently(i have 3). A lot of people think cats make great companions. I have 2 dogs, also. I love my dogs, but they are to loud.

  18. Tina Cassello

    On February 26, 2010 at 5:16 am

    I grew up with dogs, but after losing two and a cat finding us, my mother and I took in three more kittens that were born feral. The last one died a few months ago. It is not as easy to form a bond with a cat, especially if you do not get it at a very young age, because cats have a more independent nature than dogs and I’m sure that is why people are more likely to give them up or toss them out when they can’t get them to behave the way they want. They are a lot more affectionate than I had realized though.

  19. Anuradha Ramkumar

    On March 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    I love cats…cute pussys. You are a great animal lover, Brenda.

  20. shih-tzu mom

    On April 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    DOGS RULE!!! In my lifetime I have had ONE awesome cat!!! I cant stand feral cats….they are WILD and can’t be tamed…the only thing that can be done is either to spay or neuter them and let them loose or to euthanize them. L O V E D O G S

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